A Kapaa grocery store is closing after a quarter-century of doing business.
Cost-U-Less, which opened in 1993, is shutting its doors for good on March 31. The grocer employs 21 people in its warehouse-style store, which sells local and US-branded goods such as produce, meat, packaged foods and household products.
“Everybody knows each other here, it’s more laid back, you know,” said one employee who wished to remain anonymous. “Our customers are like family. It’s heartbreaking when they start asking us if it’s true.”
Cost-U-Less, a division of The North West Company, consists of 12 mid-sized stores in US Territories, Hawaiian Islands, South Pacific, Caribbean and California. The North West Company announced the closure of its Cost-U-Less store in Kauai on Thursday.
“This store was no longer sustainable as a result of ongoing financial losses, which resulted in the difficult decision to close the store,” stated Dan McConnell, president of The North West Company International. “We appreciate the hard work and dedication our employees have demonstrated over the years.”
Several customers said they shop there because of the friendly service, affordable deals and plenty of parking.
Kapaa resident Henry Panui has been coming there since it opened. He was shopping on Thursday with his daughter, Mahie, after picking her up from school to make kabocha and hamburgers at home.
“It’s convenient and close to home,” he said. “It’s almost as good as Costco, minus the drive. They’ve got a good organic section.”
Wailua resident Bridget Arume Nitta has been shopping at Cost-U-Less for more than 20 years. On Thursday, she was buying ice cream for her daughter and “some of the things that nobody else carries in bulk.”
“It’s an adventure,” she said. “If you take the time to stop and look around, then you find awesome things you can’t find anywhere else.”
Her daughter Liko likes to come there for the cupcakes.
“It’s a Kapaa thing. Actually I still know people from Waimea that come to shop here,” she added. “It’s sad to see some of the people in front and the managers go.”
Meat department employee Rick Nardin has been employed at the grocery store for 10 years and said he’s going to miss it.
“There’s nice people here, I had great fun working here,” he said. “I make sure the floor’s clean and everything’s sanitized.”
Fortunately, when the store closes he can continue working his two other jobs at Kauai Fruit and Flower Company, where he’s been for 23 years, and the Kauai Museum, for the last year.
“At least I have something to fall back on,” he said. “I’d like to thank all those people for coming here, they did their best. Best wishes for them and other places.”
Cost-U-Less opened its first retail warehouse store in 1989 on Maui. The company expanded to relatively remote island locations, like Guam, then Hilo in August 1992. Its most recent store opened in Barbados in February 2013.
Over the years, Cost-U-Less has dealt with challenges of island market operations, refining a building prototype designed to endure severe island weather and incorporating low construction costs.
“On behalf of The North West Company and the staff and management at Cost-U-Less Kauai, we would like to thank the community and customers for their support over the many years we have been in the market,” added McConnell.